dhauti kriya

Dive into the ancient practice of Dhauti Kriya, a key component of Hatha Yoga Pradipika’s shatkarmas, focused on cleansing and optimizing digestive health. This blog post explores the intricate techniques of Dhauti, from mouth to anus, emphasizing their role in enhancing prana flow and overall well-being. 

We’ll also explore the importance of practicing these methods responsibly, especially for modern yogis, and offer insights into gentler, alternative health practices. 

Join me in uncovering the transformative power and benefits of Dhauti Kriya, underlining the necessity of guidance from experienced yoga or Ayurvedic professionals.

What is Dhauti in Yoga?

Dhauti Kriya (aka Dhauti Karma) is one of the shatkarmas, six cleansing practices outlined in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika meant to optimize prana flow and good health.

Dhauti, which means ‘wash’ or ‘purification’ focuses mainly on digestive function. Dhauti Kriya is comprehensive, to say the least. It addresses digestion through the alimentary canal, from the mouth all the way through the entire digestive tract to the exit point, the anus.

Ancient yogis believed these practices assisted the body to be as clean as possible. There are less intense ways to care for your body, however. Like eating a healthy diet based on Ayurvedic science, staying hydrated and moving your body.

Before we go further: With what we know as modern yogis, please take care not to practice some of these Dhauti exercises if you are at risk of, or recovering from disordered eating habits. 

Many of these practices are not meant to be practiced daily and most importantly, they should be practiced under the guidance of a knowledgeable yoga teacher or Ayurvedic professional for your safety.

Benefits of Dhauti Kriya

Dhauti Kriya consists of many practices, each with their own benefits. Overall, the benefit of Dhauti is tied to the belief that the human body needs regular cleansing in order to gain optimal benefits from yoga practices. When you remove debris, your body is more open and available to experience vibration around you and to connect your essence fully to that of the universal source.

Here are the purported benefits of Dhauti Kriya, according to Ayurveda:

  • Enhances Prana Flow: Regular cleansing through Dhauti Kriya optimizes the flow of prana (life energy) throughout the body.
  • Improves Digestive Health: Dhauti practices focus on cleansing the digestive tract, aiding in better digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Removes Bodily Debris: The elimination of accumulated waste and toxins from the body helps in maintaining overall health.
  • Increases Bodily Awareness: Cleansing practices make the body more receptive to subtle vibrations and energies.
  • Deepens Yoga Practice: Regular cleansing is believed to enhance the benefits received from yoga practices, allowing for a deeper connection with the universal source.
  • Promotes Mental Clarity: By purifying the body, Dhauti Kriya also aids in clearing the mind, leading to improved focus and mental clarity.
  • Supports Respiratory Health: Certain Dhauti practices, like those involving the cleansing of nasal passages and throat, can improve respiratory health.
  • Boosts Immune System: By removing toxins and maintaining digestive health, Dhauti Kriya contributes to a stronger immune system.
  • Enhances Sensory Perception: Practices focusing on the cleansing of sensory organs can lead to heightened sensory awareness.
  • Promotes Emotional Balance: The process of internal cleansing can also have a balancing effect on emotions and stress levels.

These benefits reflect the holistic approach of Ayurveda and yoga, emphasizing the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

See my exact Ayurvedic morning routine to incorporate some of these practices into your daily routine!

Types of Dhauti

It is within the Gheranda Samhita, another of the classic hatha yoga texts and detailed step-by-step manual of yoga, that the types and practices of Dhauti are detailed. There are four types of Dhauti: 

  1. Danta
  2. Antar
  3. Hrid
  4. Moola Shodhana 

As mentioned, some of the Dhauti practices are complex and it is necessary that they be practiced with the guidance of a competent teacher or professional. For this reason, all steps for these Dhauti will not be described here but you will get an overall sense of their focus.

1. Danta Dhauti

Danta Dhauti are simple practices to clean the teeth, tongue, and parts of the head. Along with jal neti, these cleansing practices are concerned with the main senses of the body – hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting. They help you gain optimal perception of your surroundings.

tongue scraping

(i) Danta Mula Dhauti

This focuses on cleaning the teeth and gums. Danta means ‘teeth’ and mula means ‘root’, ‘base’ or ‘foundation’. 

Danta Mula Dhauti, focuses on cleaning the ‘root’ of your teeth. Similar to brushing your teeth, but instead of toothpaste and a toothbrush, ancient yogis used acacia resin or clean earth to rub their teeth to remove the impurities on their teeth.

Keep up your daily tooth brushing habit and you’ve got Danta Mula Dhauti covered!

Benefits of Danta Mula Dhauti:

The health of your mouth is closely related to the health of your overall body. Danta Mula, or brushing your teeth, enables you to have a preventive impact on your health and manage teeth diseases.

(ii) Jihva Dhauti

Jihva means ‘tongue’. Jihva Dhauti is similar to tongue scraping.

Try to do this practice in the morning before you eat.

While today it is preferable to use a tongue scraper, to perform Jihva Dhauti as it was outlined in the Gheranda Samhita you:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Place your index, middle finger, and ring fingers together at the back of your tongue. Gently rub your tongue clean. Start at the back and move forward.
  • Gently pull the tongue forward to lengthen it. Ancient yogis were instructed to use iron tongs for this. 
  • Rub the tongue with fresh butter and milk.
Benefits of Jihva Dhauti:

Cleaning your tongue regularly reduces harmful bacteria in your mouth that can lead to bad breath and plaque build up. 

The Gheranda Samhita notes that Jhiva helps to prevent imbalances of kapha in the body. 

It helps you stay current on the condition of your tongue to help you identify changes in its appearance.

jal neti kriya morning routine

(iii) Karna Dhauti

Karna means ‘ear’. Karna Dhauti cleans your external ears to remove excess wax. Your ear canal contains glands that secrete wax to protect the deeper structures of your ear. Sometimes wax can accumulate and reduce your ability to hear.

We are all taught not to place things in our ears to avoid damage to our ears. Ancient yogis were no different. This simple practice requires only your fingertip.

Before you begin, make sure your fingernails are short and clean. To avoid damage to your ears, no sharp points!

To perform Karna Dhauti:

  • Place the tip of your index finger on the outside of the opening to your ear canal. Apply soft pressure, this is a sensitive place. 
  • Slowly and softly, rub your index finger clockwise and counterclockwise against the opening.
  • Remove your finger, tip your head to the side to empty any wax that came loose.

I find this can be nice to perform after a shower when the ear is wet. Use a tissue or a towel between the tip of your finger and your ear to buffer your nail against the skin and lift extraneous wax away.

Benefits of Karna Dhauti:

The Gheranda Samhita says, “By regular practice the inner sound will manifest.”  When you remove extraneous wax you open up the ear to hear more clearly and to optimally interpret sound vibrations. Perhaps even mystical sounds🔮?

If you are someone who wears headphones a lot, you can definitely benefit from this practice.

(iv) Kapala Randhra Dhauti

Two common translations of the word Kapala are ‘forehead’ and ‘skull.’

There are variations of Kapala Randhra Dhauti taught. The most common is a simple head cleansing. Just splash your forehead with cold water. It is believed that this brings about a soothing influence on the whole brain.

In the Gheranda Samhita, Kapal Randhra is explained as an exercise that focuses on the back portion of the upper palate of the mouth. With your right thumb, gently rub the back portion of the roof of your mouth. It is believed that this practice enables the nadis to become clean, and divine sight arises. 

One additional variation of Kapal Randhra is Kapal Dhauti. It is said to bring relaxation to the brain and can be helpful for headaches.

To perform Kapal Dhauti:

  • Press gently on the temples on each side of the forehead with your thumbs, make small circular movements for one minute. 
  • Pause and change the directions of your circles for another minute. 
  • Repeat as needed.
Benefits of Kapala Randhra Dhuati:

Each of these variations aim to soothe and relax the nervous system.

2. Antar Dhauti (Internal Dhauti)

Antar Dhauti cleanses the interior body by working with the abdominal digestive organs. Antar, which means ‘inner,’ consists of the following four practices.

(i) Vatsara Dhauti

Vatsara Dhauti (or Vatasara Dhauti) uses air inside the body to cleanse the digestive tract. It is best performed before a large meal.

To perform Vatsara Dhauti:

  • Sit comfortably. 
  • Open your mouth, purse your lips like you are going to suck on a big straw. 
  • Breathe deeply though your mouth and do a series of swallows or gulps to bring air down into your stomach.
  • Fill your stomach with as much air as comfortable.  
  • Relax completely. The air will pass through your body through the intestines.
Benefits of Vatsara Dhauti:

Moves stale and stagnant gas through your body and stimulates the digestive system.

Ancient yogis believed that oxygen encouraged the best possible digestion of food.

(ii) Varisara Dhauti

Varisara, the common name for this practice: Vari, meaning “water” and sara “essence”. It is also known as shankhaprakshalana dhauti. Shankha means “conch” and prakshalana “to wash completely”. The word shanka describes the intestines’ cavernous and coiled shape.

himalayan salt

This should only be performed in an ashram or yoga center under the guidance of a competent yoga teacher or Ayurvedic practitioner.

Varisara should not be performed more than twice a year and it is best to do it at the changeover of seasons on days with mild weather. A lot of rest and a simple diet of kitchari are necessary post-practice to give your body time to recuperate and build up stomach lining and gastric juices.

If you have any medical condition, seek guidance from your doctor before attempting, especially if you are taking medication. If you have heart issues, kidney problems, high blood pressure, or are pregnant you should not practice Varisara.

Why so many precautions?

Well, Varisara Dhauti is intricate and involves consumption of large amounts of salty lukewarm water. After you drink the water, you perform a series of poses to move it through your digestive system as an internal cleansing. For your safety, you need a competent teacher or professional to observe your water consumption and movements.

You can do these poses at home without the salty water as a solid (pun intended) and gentle way to assist your digestion through movement only. They are:

  • Tadasana (palm tree pose)
  • Tiryaka tadasana (swaying palm tree)
  • Kati chakrasana (waist rotating pose)
  • Tiryaka bhujangasana (twisted cobra)
  • Udarakarshanasana (abdominal stretch pose)
Benefits of Varisara Dhauti:

Varisara is believed to alleviate digestive problems and strengthen the immune system.

(iii) Agnisara Dhauti

Agni means ‘fire’ and sara means ‘essence.’ It is also known as Vahnisara Dhauti.  Vahni also means ‘fire.’ With this practice, focus your intention on the activation of your digestive fire or cleaning your digestive tract with the essence of fire, heat energy.

fire

To perform Agnisara Dhauti:

  • Sit in vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) with knees wide or sit in padmasana (lotus). Yogi’s choice.
  • Place hands on knees.
  • Arch spine slightly, straighten arms.
  • Bend your head forward slightly.
  • Eyes can be open or closed.
  • Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue.
  • Breath in, expand your abdomen. Breath out, contract it. This will be rapid like breath of fire, but don’t overdo it. The breath should resemble a dog when it pants.
  • Continue until you feel a little fatigue, then rest. 
  • Attempt 3 rounds when first beginning.

Practice on an empty stomach, preferably first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom. 

People who are pregnant, menstruating or with high blood pressure, recent abdominal surgery/stomach issues, overactive thyroid or chronic diarrhea should not perform. In warmer weather, perform carefully as it can raise your body heat and blood pressure.

Benefits of Agnisara Dhauti:

Agnisara stimulates appetite, improves digestion, massages the abdomen and internal organs, and strengthens the abdominal muscles. It’s also believed to raise energy levels which can help to alleviate depression, dullness and lethargy.

(iv) Bahiskrita Dhauti

There are many ancient yoga practices that modern yogis should not attempt on their own. Bahiskrita Dhauti, which aims to cleanse your whole body while you hold your breath for 90 minutes, is one of them.

For descriptive purposes only (and to give you a better idea as to why you should not perform this solo) just know this involves holding an inhale for 90 minutes and standing in lukewarm water. Obviously there is more to it than that and if you wish to try it please consult a licensed professional.

3. Hrid Dhauti

Hrid in Sanskrit refers to ‘heart’. Hrid Dhauti practices are meant to be an internal cleansing of your digestive tract in the chest region of your heart (upper respiratory tract and a thoracic cleansing).

(i) Danda Dhauti

If you have a history of disordered eating, consider avoiding Danda Dhauti. This is another practice I will say to do with a licensed professional as it involves inserting a stick into the top portion of your throat several times.

Benefits of Danda Dhauti:

This practice was performed with the belief that it would help to remove excess phlegm and bile from the throat.

(ii) Vastra Dhauti

Vastra means ‘cloth.’ Vastra Dhauti is an internal washing of the throat, esophagus and upper stomach with a long piece of damp cloth.

Again, this dhauti should be performed with the guidance of a competent yoga teacher or Ayurvedic practitioner. 

Why? When performed correctly, the practitioner will “swallow” a thin strip of fabric, perform Nauli Kriya (learn about Nauli Kriya) while the fabric is in the throat continuously and then slowly pull the fabric out through the mouth.

This can be a dangerous practice – if you leave the fabric in your body for too long you risk the cloth entering your intestinal tract. Plus, if you pull the cloth too hard or too fast it could damage the walls of your stomach and esophagus.

Vastra Dhauti should not be performed by people who are pregnant, have high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke risk, peptic ulcer, gastritis, or when the body is in a weakened state.

Benefits of Vastra Dhauti:

Vastra is believed to loosen and expel mucus from the chest, relax muscles of the bronchial tubes which improves respiratory functions, and help asthma sufferers if performed with regularity. Because this practice induces the urge to vomit it is thought to tone the autonomic nervous system.

(iii) Vamana Dhauti

Vamana means ‘vomiting.’ Vamana Dhauti (also called Kunjal Kriya, Jala Dhauti, and Vaman Dhauti) is straightforward, it’s vomiting lukewarm salty water.

It is best to do Vamana in the morning in a warm environment and when the stomach is empty.

It’s important to check with your doctor first, as well as working with a competent yoga teacher, on this. Which is why I’m not going to give the specific steps here.

Benefits of Vamana Dhauti:

This technique is meant to clean the digestive tract from the stomach region to the mouth. It is believed to benefit allergies and asthma, remove excess acidity from the stomach, remove impurities and undigested food particles, eliminates halitosis (bad breath), and reduces accumulation of phlegm in the throat.

yoga for self mastery

4. Moola Shodhana Dhauti

Moola means ‘base’ or ‘root’ and shodhana means ‘purification.’ Moola Shodhana can be translated to mean ‘purifies the anus and rectum.’

This practice cleans the rectum with soft turmeric root or your own finger (make sure to cut fingernails short and no sharp edges). Turmeric root is traditionally recommended for its medicinal value.

turmeric root

To perform Moola Shodhana:

  • Find a comfortable position. A squat may be best. 
  • Insert turmeric root or a finger into your anus/rectum. If needed, you can use a lubricant like ghee.
  • Gently rotate your finger or turmeric root in both directions, about 2-3 times.
  • Remove your finger/turmeric. You can wash and reinsert if you want to do multiple rounds.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly when completed.
  • If possible, wash the anus with cold water.
Benefits of Moola Shodhana:

Moola Shodhana is believed to help to stimulate nerves and blood vessels, encourage consistent bowel movements, clean the rectum and anus areas of hard, putrid waste matter, and aid constipation and hemorrhoids.

I’ll see you on the mat

Many Dhauti Kriya practices focus on digestive health, which has a direct impact on your immune system. Want to take a gentler approach? Join me in Uplifted where I have an Immune Boosting Training Plan ready for you.

Does ancient yoga practice like Dhauti Kriya intrigue you? Me too! I dove deep into my research and compiled my History of Yoga course just for yoga nerds like you! If you want to go even deeper, consider joining Guru Singh and me in our 200-HR Kundalini yoga teacher training, Kundalini University, to learn more about this ancient yoga lineage.

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